Thursday 1 December 2011

A Winter Wonderland in Broken Barnet

Pinch punch, first of the month, and seasons greetings to all readers.

Apologies for the new heading: Mrs Angry had hoped to post a lovely Christmas scene, but her photoshop assistant is not listening to her pleas for help, and is going on her naughty list as a consequence, and she has also had resort to an slightly vulgar alternative. Standards are slipping, here in Broken Barnet. Anyway, this is partly to make up for the Michael Gove picture. (And ladies, isn't it amazing what a man can do with a recycled Sainsbury's carrier bag?)

Mrs Angry is not on Santa's naughty list however: the other day, you know, Christmas shopping at Brent Cross, as she ascended the escalator, Santa came out of his grotto and waved cheerily at her, all the way up to Russell & Bromley. See. Mrs Angry waved back, equally cheerily, much to the embarrassment of Miss Angry. (Miss Angry has just come home from school and confessed that her media studies class have been looking at this blog, and thought her mum was ahem, actually quite cool, and now her media teacher wants to meet her. Uh oh. Miss Angry is now studying A levels at her mother's old school, and within weeks of arriving, rather amusingly, the headteacher, who has been there since the beginning of time, and even used to teach Mrs Angry, unexpectedly announced her retirement, in a desperate effort to avoid another generation of Angry women ...)

Anyway: Santa knows that Mrs Angry may be naughty, but is also nice: and here is a lesson for the councillors and senior management team of the London Borough of Broken Barnet.

But do you know, citizens, not only do Santa, and Eric Pickles, and Councillor John Marshall love Mrs Angry: it seems all the Tory councillors of the London Borough of Broken Barnet have at last succumbed to her powers of persuasion, and indeed, embraced not only her charms, but the delights of the entire Barnet blogosphere.

This morning, small but perfectly formed Councillor Robert Rams has announced a major new change of policy - yes, see I used the word, without permission - in his own blog, an occasional mouthpiece for the model for local government formerly known as easycouncil, futureshape etc. As Mrs Angry exclusively revealed yesterday, One Barnet is rumoured to be undergoing another shapeshifting transformation into, well, something else, something to trick disaffected voters into falling for the old Tory lies next May. And look - a miracle on Oakleigh Road North, just in time for Christmas ... talking about the new Barnet website, Rams tells us:

"We can provide a better, more efficient service for residents by allowing them to access more services online, at their convenience.

But as well as providing a more efficient transactional website, the redevelopment of Barnet Online will allow the council to focus on becoming more open and transparent.

As has been discussed elsewhere, the council receives a large number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and responding to them takes up a lot of officer time, time that would be better spent on the core activities of their jobs. We can greatly reduce this burden on council time and resources by publishing more council data and making it easier to find.

We may also encourage more residents to actively engage with the council. At the moment, being an armchair auditor requires a dogged determination. There aren’t many people who would want to spend their social hours trolling* through committee papers and expense reports looking for anomalies. (*darling, did you mean trawling? Trolling is something quite different: see my comment on your blog ... I wouldn't say we are dogged though: that's more of a Tory councillor pastime).

By making more information – previous FOI requests, details of allowances and expenses, copies of contract and tender documents, committee minutes and decisions, performance data etc – more freely available we will allow those residents with less free time to find out more about how the council, councillors and council run services are performing ..."

Robert continues:

"Barnet has nothing to hide, so I’m very keen that we make as much information about the council as easy to access as possible and the new website is the ideal vehicle to deliver on this transparent."

Well, this is good news. Mrs Angry wonders if Uncle Eric has given our councillors a bit of a telling off? There is much rejoicing in the Department of Communities and Local Government over the repentance of sinners like Barnet, we are sure. Of course: the track record of this council has been to push the democratic process entirely in the opposite direction of the spirit of localism, and greater accountability, so this apparent new conversion by Barnet is going to require a writhing contortion of Houdini like escapology to achieve, and it will be marvellous entertainment.

Sadly, one suspects that rather than genuine skill and a bravura performance by the Barnet magicians, we will be treated to more smoke and mirrors, and a now you see it, now you don't sleight of hand, where apparent accountabilty disguises the usual cynical, careful political management of information.

But here is more seasonal good news: look at this cheering press release from Barnet Council:

High Barnet to be transformed into a winter wonderland

The Mayor of Barnet will lend her support to local traders this weekend by taking part in the High Barnet Christmas Fayre Parade.

Councillor Lisa Rutter and her escort, husband Mark, will officially open the event on Barnet High Street (opposite Moxon Street) this Sunday (4 December) at 12.20pm.

The Mayor will then board the Carnival Queen’s carriage and lead the parade along the High Street to The Spires Shopping Centre, where she will view a Christmas Market selling a range of gifts, jewellery, wreaths, cards and decorations. A Barnet Farmers’ Market will also be on offer displaying a wide variety of local produce.

This year will also see the return of the highly popular Winter Wonderland. An ice skating rink, fairground attractions, go-karting and even real reindeer will form the Fayre’s centrepiece ...

The programme has been funded by the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund money of £400,000 which the Chipping Barnet town centre received this summer to give the high street a boost, as well as through business sponsorship.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who set up the Outer London Fund to help rejuvenate and boost London's high streets and town centres said:

"Our local town centres and high streets have a huge part to play in London's future economic growth so I'm delighted to be able to support the High Barnet Christmas Fayre Parade through my Outer London Fund. Lighting up the high street and attracting shoppers from across the borough it will bring a real buzz to the High Street and kicked off what promises to be a 'cracking' Christmas season."

The Worshipful the Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Lisa Rutter said:

“During these difficult financial times its important we as a community support our local traders and businesses in any way we can. I’m honoured to be officially opening this year’s Christmas Fayre and urge residents to pay a visit, enjoy the festivities and show their support to our local high streets.”

Isn't that heart warming? As long as you forget about the fact that the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet are killing our town centres with Brian Coleman's new parking scheme, which in a matter of three weeks or so has brought local traders to their knees, already struggling in the recession. Of course the difference here is that Chipping Barnet has a special grant from the Mayor's pre election giveaway fund, a fund, she understands, supported by money borrowed from elsewhere. Oh, and this high street just happens to be home to the most influential Tory councillors, of course, members of the Chipping Barnet Conservative Association ...

Back in the real world: the real world, Brian, one not dependent on handouts from Mayoral candidates, this is what one shopowner here in Finchley has to say, according to the local Times today. His shop is just a stroll down from Coleman's charity flat:

"Bhavesh Patel is one of Barnet’s many shopkeepers who are worried about the future of their stores.

Mr Patel, 30, owns Hallmark Cards in High Road, Finchley, and has lost around 35-40 per cent of trade in the last month.

Blaming the pay-by-phone-system, he said: “I tried to call to register my car and it took me over eight minutes. I have customers complaining about it – older customers don’t have mobile phones and people are going to Brent Cross where there is free parking.

“You would never find parking spaces outside the shops but now there are.”

Drivers can pay using cash at Pay Points in stores across Barnet but there is just one in High Road at Confags newsagents."

There is a local business forum tonight at Trinity Church, North Finchley. Leader Richard Cornelius is due to attend. I would take an armed escort, if I were you, Richard. And the Worshipful Mayor might like to consider the hypocrisy of her position, and that of her Tory colleagues, in claiming to support local traders and businesses with a Boris backed jamboree when their own policies in action are putting every other town centre other than the one in their own back yard in danger of complete economic failure.

If you travel through the wider winter wonderland of Broken Barnet, in fact, you will find a landscape studded not with sparkling Christmas trees or genial snowmen: everywhere you look is Brian Coleman's yuletide offering to retailers: the dark, sinister figures of former parking ticket machines, now covered with shrouds made of black bin liners. These mournful coverings, strangely, intended to be temporary measures, are now torn and flapping forlornly in the wind: for some reason the programme intended to remove the machines, at a cost of £80,000 plus, signed off to one lucky company, has come to a sudden halt. Have the feeble Tory councillors at last rebelled against the tyranny of Brian Coleman, and demanded a reversal of his idiotic plan? Is this part of the long goodbye to One Barnet, along with Robert Rams belated embrace of the joy of transparency in local government?

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat: maybe someone's goose is well and truly cooked ... eh Brian?


Mr Mustard said...

and the Mayor "will then board the Carnival Queen’s carriage and lead the parade along the High Street to The Spires Shopping Centre" which is a distance of 150m from opposite Moxon St where she is starting her journey.

I am sure you will hear the cheering from Finchley Mrs A although it doesn't leave much time for regal waving does it?

The Carnival Queen's carriage! Does Barnet Council own one ( FOI question ) or will some other queen lend it to the mayor ?

hanlemic said...

The High Barnet Christmas Street Party is normally "graced" by his eminence grise Councillor Coleman. One year we had the spectacle of him insisting that his driver drive the mayoral limo* INTO the street party, so that Coleman didn't have to walk in (the High St was closed off to traffic) and park on Union St. Will he dare to turn up this year?
*Bwian was mayoral escort that year.

baarnett said...

Just seen that Boris the Mayor (bless 'im) is coming to speak in Barnet in January, at a public meeting chaired by Brian!

Richard Cornelius will also be on the panel (although it does actually say "the Leader of Barnet Council", so who knows).

Mrs Angry said...

Hmm. Mr M, I seem to remember there was a carnival queen carriage at Friern Show. No doubt the banner snatching rev has one stored in that lovely church hall.

Hanlemic, to be fair, I'm not sure His Eminence is actually capable of walking: his feet do not touch the pavement like ordinary mortals, he floats along in a form of levitation. I am very tempted to attend this fabulous event,in fact, as I am sure it will offer some photo opportunities ...

Baarnett: I will certainly try to attend that one, although I suspect it will be by invitation only and strictly vetted. As you say, who knows who will be leader by then?

baarnett said...

It seems ANYONE in London can go to ask the "Brain's Trust" in January a question. Pre-register at BORIS'S WEB SITE.

(You can google the BBC's "Brain's Trust". It sort of became "I'm Sorry, I haven't a Clue" I think. If I had changed it to "Brian's Trust, I think I would have lost even the couple of people who are still reading this.)

And without studying the subject closely, as no doubt you have done, Mrs A, those are not Sainsbury's bags - they are the corporate colour of easyCouncil, like the planes and so on. All male Cabinet members will be forced to wear them, if they go ahead with easyBarnetShape.

Mrs Angry said...

mmm baarnett, I have studied the subject quite closely ... why do bodybuilders shave off all their body hair? Eurgh. The gentleman on the far right is awfully pleased with himself, isn't he? No point in expecting Barnet Tory councillors to oblige by wearing easycouncil posing pouches: I imagine they would have very little to contribute.

I suppose we will have to register for the Brian Trust under assumed names. And what do you mean lose the couple of readers ... thousnds, darling, thousands ...